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🎉 How A Newsletter Can Grow Your Podcast Community 💌
🤸🏻♀️ Giving your podcast a newsletter pal will help you reach more listeners 🌈
Hello, hello! Devin here to tell you about the exciting takeover we have for you today. Imagine being 100 episodes into one of your podcasts and one year into an amazing podcast newsletter AND THEN taking the time to share your wisdom with us?! That’s what Courtney Kocak is doing today! Courtney is the co-host of Private Parts Unknown, a podcast about love and sexuality around the world, host of The Bleeders, a podcast about writing and the book industry, and writer of Podcast Bestie, a newsletter for podcasters.
If you’ve ever wondered about creating a newsletter to go with your podcast, this one’s for you. Courtney has all the insights and some great case studies to highlight the possibilities.
If you have time for one thing
Heed Courtney’s words today on why your podcast needs a newsletter:
With a newsletter, you own your email list and have an easy, direct way to contact your listeners. That’s why I think setting up a companion newsletter for your podcast is crucial, even if you don’t plan to use it very often.
With that, welcome Courtney!
Hello, Magicians of Podcast Marketing Magic! ✨
My name is Courtney Kocak, and I currently host two independent podcasts — Private Parts Unknown and The Bleeders — and have produced top podcasts for celebrities and CEOs, including Paypal, Girlboss, the Bella Twins, and more. I also write a newsletter of my own for podcasters called Podcast Bestie.
In fact, Podcast Bestie is celebrating its first anniversary TODAY, which is why Lauren and her team so generously let me do this takeover for my musings on — what else?
🎉 Newsletters for podcasts! 🎉
Earlier this year, I was the guest consultant for the Podspike’s The Podcast Clinic newsletter, and I answered the following question:
Is starting a newsletter or blog to supplement your podcast a good idea?
I selected that particular question to answer because it was something I was mulling over a lot myself. I was four months into my Podcast Bestie newsletter and was really getting into Substack at the time. (I now have four Substacks, which means my newsletter addiction is even worse than my podcast addiction, yikes!)
For my response, I came up with this list of pros and cons:
Pro for newsletter:
Aside from when listeners meet your podcast on the RSS feed, they are strangers to you. What I mean by that is that you have no direct mode of communication apart from that feed. But with a newsletter, you own your email list and have an easy, direct way to contact your listeners. That’s why a companion newsletter for your podcast is crucial.
Pro for blog:
The SEO of a blog should increase traffic to your website. We’re in the process of updating our website for my podcast, Private Parts Unknown, and we're thinking about how to leverage SEO. Even just adding a press page with all of our expert commentary for sites like Men’s Health and Cosmopolitan should help more folks find us through their search results. A blog where you post relevant content to your podcast’s niche will grow your online footprint and draw in new listeners over time.
Con for both:
Ideally, your blog or newsletter will contain some original content to incentivize listeners to subscribe or check the blog. However, it is an extra production lift to make a blog or newsletter its own unique thing. If you have time to create original content to supplement your show via newsletter or blog posts, that’s awesome! You’ll probably see more engagement than you would with repurposed content. Realistically though, especially if you’re an independent podcaster, you are likely running the show solo or with a skeleton crew, and taking on an additional task might be too much.
Cost-benefit compromise if you're low on bandwidth:
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by just making your podcast good at the moment, don’t sweat it. You can start with something manageable. For instance, you could set up a Substack newsletter for your podcast and commit to monthly or quarterly roundups of your favorite recent episodes. Likewise, for a low-lift blog, publish a variation on your show notes to your podcast’s website or a quarterly “Top 5” to highlight your favorite eps. By starting slow, you can begin to build your email list or get some added SEO benefits in a way that doesn’t lead to burnout.
This brings us to my *current* advice on the matter:
I agree with my advice from eight months ago but even more so. Even if you’re low on extra bandwidth, you MUST start a newsletter for your podcast.
In June, when I launched my newest podcast, The Bleeders, about book writing and publishing, I started a newsletter in tandem. I’ve sent out an issue to promote every single episode thus far, along with links to “Online Reading about Writing,” short reviews of what I’ve been reading, news from literary Twitter, and more. Both the podcast and newsletter have grown steadily in the five months since launch, but I’m actually proud to report that my Substack for The Bleeders is growing faster than the podcast.
For Private Parts Unknown, my long-time podcast about sex and love around the world, I actually just started taking the newsletter seriously in the last six months to a year. This spring, I buckled down and committed to sending out an issue for every episode, and my newsletter audience has grown, and I sometimes see a little listener spike on days when I send out the newsletter.
I don’t do long intros where I catch up with my listeners at the beginning of each episode (for either podcast), but the newsletters give me a chance to do more of that, which I really enjoy.
My latest client, Isabella Di Stefano, who just launched her ISA Game podcast, kicked things off with a Substack to serve her community of creatives, marketers, and entrepreneurs, as well. That was one of my top recommendations for her in our early talks.
Starting a podcast and building an audience isn’t easy. It takes good content, persistence, and savvy strategy, among other things. I no longer think about how I’m going to attract listeners to my podcasts; I think about how I’m going to attract like-minded members to my community AND keep them engaged through my digital ecosystem. I mean that genuinely — I’ve come to desire a deeper relationship with my listeners, more two-way than one-way.
Starting a newsletter for your podcast is building infrastructure that creates a direct line for your listeners and fosters a richer connection.
I’d like to share three examples from my own experience as a listener as case studies:
Case Study #1:
Jay Clouse has a newsletter called Creator Science, but I believe it used to be called Creative Companion. In that newsletter, he promotes his podcast Creative Elements with an illustration of the guest and a short blurb about how they exemplify the theme of their episode on Jay’s podcast Creative Element. That on its own is fairly compelling, especially since guests are at the top of their creator game.
In Jay’s newsletter he shares:
Links, transcript, and show notes
Why he was excited to talk with the guest
Behind the scenes of how he booked the guest
A couple of takeaways from the episode
His newsletter also features mini-essays about things he’s learned from running his creator business, news about his show, information about his courses and membership, and ads. But because he’s niched down, the ads feel like an appropriate component of the newsletter — not out of place at all, as they are for tools Jay uses and you might need in your creator business.
And this works — his website says his newsletter audience is now 14K strong, and while I’m not an every-episode listener of any always-on podcast, but as a newsletter recipient, it helps me decide if I want to listen to an episode and keeps me engaged with his work even when I’m not. In fact, I asked Jay to do a Podcast Bestie Q&A about his pivot to video based on his Creative Elements episode with Miss Excel BECAUSE I was still an engaged subscriber and saw it on his newsletter. He’s getting free promo FROM his email list!
Jay’s newsletter host: ConvertKit
Case Study #2:
Krista Williams and Lindsey Simcik have a newsletter for their podcast Almost 30. Typically each issue of the newsletter has a theme tied to a recent episode, serving as soft promo. But the content — perhaps a short essay from Krista or Lindsey, a list of journal prompts, or some beauty or wellness recommendations — is robust enough that I’m happy to open their newsletter. They are great at repurposing content in a way that feels fresh, and they nurture their email audience by making the content in service of them. While affiliate links, sponsor information, or course promotions are in almost every issue, they’re well integrated. And occasionally, I’ll listen to an episode because of something I saw in the newsletter.
Almost 30’s newsletter host: ConvertKit
Case Study #3:
This example is perhaps the best reason you need to start a newsletter and blog as a podcaster — and also an illustration of how long-game this strategy is. I found Nick Loper’s The Side Hustle Show through a Google search about a year into the pandemic, so spring of 2021. I was teaching several podcasting courses via Zoom at the time and was noodling on maybe turning that into a group coaching program (I wound up starting my Podcast Bestie newsletter instead). So as I was Googling how-to information about group coaching programs, I landed on Nick’s webpage for his episode “How to Set Up and Sell a Group Coaching Program.” There was a nice SEO-friendly blurb about the episode on that webpage and the embedded podcast, but I had to sign up for his email list for the transcript. I wanted the information in a fast and readable format, so I was happy to do so.
And I’ve been on his list ever since. Much of what comes through on the list is relevant to my creative hustles, so it keeps me engaged, even if I just give it a quick look before archiving. And over time — at least six months later — I became a listener of his podcast. Again, not every episode, but when I see an episode related to podcasting or something else I’m interested in, I’ll check it out. And, like Jay, I asked Nick to do a Q&A for Podcast Bestie inspired by one of his emails. I discovered Nick’s show through SEO, joined his email list for the transcript, and now, 20 months later, I’ve become a listener AND free promoter of his podcast.
Nick’s newsletter host: ActiveCampaign
My biggest tip for making a successful companion newsletter is always to remember that allowing someone into your inbox and engaging with their message is a privilege for the sender. When your listeners sign up for your email list, treat it as such. Don’t spam them. Be intentional with what you’re sending them. Try to include some original content or at least package it up in an easily-digestible, compelling way that is respectful of their time and attention. Who knows — your email subscribers might just become your greatest evangelists!
My community of Besties is awesome, and they sent me some really fabulous examples of how podcasters are making their newsletters an event all its own.
➡️ Subscribe to Podcast Bestie for Part 2 of this companion newsletter manifesto with their responses.
🗣️ Do you have a companion newsletter for your podcast? If so, drop the link in the comments below. I would love to check it out.
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